When I was little, my mother made most of my clothes. She had learnt to sew in the 60s when working in publishing on Carnaby Street – a Biba girl at heart but without the budget, she saved up for a sewing machine and made her own wardrobe. Her expert piecing together of Vogue patterns and self styling became legendary and when she had me (having assumed she would have a third boy) she went to town. Nostalgic, romantic, Victoriana inspired creations that were so picturesque and precious – smocks, layered pinafores, vintage florals, lace collars. Think Zimmerman and LoveShackFancy in tiny, vintage form. My Little Bo Peep costume she whipped up one weekend for a party was a thing of absolute beauty.
I’m sure it’s in part down to all this that my heart is drawn to the current wave of Laura Ashley inspired prairie dresses. Their pristine collars, pretty puff sleeves, faded prints and romantic silhouettes speak to the soul of my 5 year old self.
And without getting too heavy, it’s no coincidence that during these uncertain political and economic times, it is outrageously sentimental, gloriously pretty, pure fashion escapism that is striking a cord.
Matches have the best on display. A new obsession is the designer Horro Vacui who throws everything at it- a diverse range of floral prints, puffed sleeved, scalloped hem, draping, full skirted. They feel dramatic and slightly more modern because of the detail overload. Loretta Caponi effectively sticks to a streamlined formula of smocked maxi dresses – a more traditional, gardening robe feel that looks effortless and idyllically rural and has been in my basket for a few weeks. Batsheva is more pristine and a little less boho inspired- with impressive collars and an all round harder aesthetic. For a brighter more eccentric but still supremely wearable version, D’ascoli is king.
If you are seeking a one off, the real deal, a true Laura Ashley special then Laura Von Behr is a great place to start. And never underestimate the treasure trove that is Etsy. Within 5 minutes of searching I picked up this original 1970s Prairie dress for an incredible £50 from a vintage dealer.
In late summer, despite the occasional aggressive downpour in the UK and increasing chill in the air, I maintain a mantra of ‘dress like you’re on holiday’ for as long as possible. It’s liberating to be confronted with a wardrobe of flamboyant, easy to wear dresses that make me feel innately relaxed and happy. Isn’t it after all the few weeks of the year we dream about? I am loathed to start pulling together layered looks or buying new knitwear quite yet, so these long sleeved, cotton, pretty, easy to wear dresses are my trans-seasonal investment buys. Effortless and modern with sliders on sunny days, perfection with a chunky cardigan and long boots or trainers and a Burberry mac in colder ones. As well as making sure the print is a keeper, prioritise a high, detailed collar (if your bust allows) and most definitely a midi-maxi skirt (full on florals with excessive knee display call for pig tails and a lolly pop).
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